Twelve years ago I was attacked on a subway platform in Boston as more than twenty people stood by and watched.
No one intervened.
When I finally broke free from my attacker, and was running for the stairs, I fell. My hand was broken. I was crying, begging for help, but no one stopped. One by one, people disembarked the train, stepping over me, some on me, without ever looking back. When I finally reached street level, telling subway officials in the toll booths what had happened, they simply pointed me to a bank of 4 pay phones. 3 of them were broken.
No matter what I did, or who I asked, I could not get help.
May 17th has been in my calendar since 2004.
I’m not sure why I felt the need to hang onto it. Maybe to remind myself to be more vigilant (I made some stupid, tourist mistakes). Maybe to remember to be grateful that I’m still alive (especially given the very detailed account of what my attacker told me he was about to do to me). Mostly I think it’s just because I wasn’t ready to let go.
Somehow the trauma became part of what defined me. It’s also been one of my greatest blocks to getting on with the business of Adventures.
It happened at a time when I was on top of the world. I had been invited to spend a weekend brainstorming with Ethan Zohn‘s “Grassroots Soccer” board, helping to find ways of putting his million dollar prize to work after he won “Survivor: Africa“, and looking for ways of ensuring the good work he started to help turn the tide of AIDs in Africa would be sustainable.
There I was, this ordinary girl from a small town in Canada, working with people who were moving mountains. It’s where I met my friend, David Rosenberg, the true treasure of that journey: a fellow writer and better world scout with a chest that held a beating heart bigger than any I’d ever met. It was one of the pinch-me moments in my life. I was over the moon.
The Wrong Kind of Adventure
On the second evening we had a wonderful dinner at Ethan’s mum’s house, surrounded by the stories and artifacts of his time in Africa, and many more allies who were there to help. It was amazing to be surrounded by so much uplift, so many fellow better world scouts and kindred souls.
I took the bus back to the hotel that night, navigating several transfers in a strange city, mere months after this beautiful city had been the launch point for what we came to know as 9/11.
My fear dissolved into a feeling of invincibility, so much so that I made several key mistakes the very next day, eventually leading me to one of the most dangerous subway routes in Boston, and of course, in harm’s way.
The details are for another time, but it left me with some keen insights into staying safe in strange cities as a woman traveling alone, which I’ll share as part of a conversation I’m inviting you to have with me as you shape your own adventures:
While I will hold onto the lessons, I will no longer give the day itself power as a stain in my calendar.
Letting go is a choice.
Here’s to Adventures with the Estrogen Army, baby! Here’s to letting go of traumas and their ability to keep hurting us, and holding us back.
Letting go is a choice. Moving on is a choice.